Authors: Claire Adams
book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are
products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not
to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual
events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
© 2016 Claire Adams
me on Facebook
free copy of my never released book when you sign up for the authors VIP
heard my own heels clicking fast
across the foyer floor. The next song came over the living room speakers and I
breathed a sigh of relief. Addictive rhythms ran through the crowd and grabbed
hold of both faculty and students. Other than the occasional tapping toe and
slight bounce of the head, it was hard to see, but the party had hit the right
party wasn't the right word.
plaid tweed, too many khakis, and a wide array of sweaters. It was definitely
an official Landsman College sanctioned gathering. The Dean of Students tried
every year to introduce the Honor Council nominees to the faculty in a fun way.
This year, fueled by a joke list of movies he was told to watch over the
summer, Dean Dunkirk had announced a house party.
snuck beers or spiked lemonades in the prerequisite red plastic cups, while
faculty drank aged wine or fine spirits out of the same. The music was a
mash-up of classic acoustic guitar rock, and toned-down student favorites. I
had even moved some of the furniture aside and made hang-out spots with
over-sized throw pillows. Ping pong was a big draw on the back, three-season
porch. Mason jars of tea lights added a simple elegance and the food was easy,
grill-inspired finger foods.
was perfect, and I searched for something to do. I imagined being a full-blown
journalist and swept the collegiate crowd again in search of headlines. As I
smiled and mingled, I wrote leads in my head.
from the same cloth, student and coach wore the same sweater.
summer, English professor returns from California vacation and continues her
taste for Napa wines.
that her bored smile?" Jasmine asked the petite girl beside her.
can't tell; I think it's pasted on." Lexi's short brown curls bounced as
she tipped her head, studied Clarity, and flipped to the other side.
funny. Where have you two been?" I asked my best friends.
little pre-party with some football players." Jasmine's tall, willowy
figure shuddered with delight. "Looks like it's going to be a good
couldn't fault my friends, but I focused on the house party. "You were
supposed to be here helping me."
tossed her blonde hair. "Like you needed us. Everyone's having an
honorably great time. More importantly, have you decided what you're doing for
Thanksgiving break? I vote we stay on campus and enjoy some of the real
parties. No offense, Clarity."
laughed, "None taken. I'm sticking around for break so I can get a head
start on some of my journalism classes. Intermediate News Reporting is going to
be a big step up."
rolled on her tip toes to nudge Jasmine in the ribs. "We heard the one to
look forward to is Multi-Media Production and Storytelling."
yeah," Jasmine's eyes sparkled. "The, uh, syllabus looks really,
that's why she's going to stay on campus with us during break," Lexi said.
"You know, so she can attend her professor's office hours."
you saying the professor's supposed to be hot?" I asked. "You know
that little fantasy doesn't work for me. The Dean of Students is my father,
we're saying is take some good notes for us. We want to hear every
detail," Jasmine grinned.
rolled my eyes. "We're past junior high, right? Last time I checked, we
were juniors in college."
collapsed against my arm and giggled harder. "Hey, we can't all be fulfilled
by careers alone."
of fulfillment, you should have seen the new quarterback," Jasmine said.
sighed as I saw a guest empty a wine bottle. "Look, I've got to go restock
the bar. Are you going to stick around for a while? Please?"
she wants to hear about the quarterback," Lexi winked. "I guess we
can stick around for a while."
have to, Lex; you're nominated for Honor Council," I reminded her.
shit, that's right."
dropped to the sofa in a new fit of giggles and dragged Lexi down with her. I
took a quick spin through the dining room to see if anyone needed anything. Conversations
were relaxed, red plastic cups were full, the silver trays of food were still
over half full, and everyone was engaged.
tall, brunette economics professor broke from her department friends and strode
across the dining room. She paused near the back hall, under the stairs, then
turned around as if she had forgotten something. The other female professors
fluttered when she returned and their heads bent together to discuss something.
of the French professors watched with a frown as his wife took the long way to
the bathroom by going through the back hall. I could tell from a few other
glances that some gossip was centered under the stairs. I clipped across the
hardwood floor to a better vantage point.
I turned around, the room kept spinning. The man standing half in the shadows,
leaned against the built-in dresser under the stairs, and stood out from the
Landsman College crowd. Long legs in dark denim stretched down to artfully
scuffed Italian boots. His crisp, white shirt stood out under a charcoal sport
coat. A thick brush of dark stubble covered his square jaw and black, glossy
hair rioted on his head despite the short cut.
smiled and his metallic gray eyes touched me like a live wire. I hoped the jolt
wasn't noticeable, but his smile widened and fried my circuits.
Alright—I see what the fuss is all
. I forced myself to turn back to the diminishing bar.
There, I busied myself with unloading full bottles of wine from a box hidden in
a corner cabinet of the dining room.
was impossible to ignore the electric hum of him behind me. I caught myself
glancing back under the stairs. He wasn't talking to anybody, but seemed
content observing. Then his magnetic eyes touched me again.
Now I have to go talk to him
I prodded myself. I have to ask if he needs anything, that way he'll think I'm
attentive, not attracted to him.
determined the voltage that played along my skin had to do with not eating
enough while playing hostess. It was not the direct effect of watching his
white button-up shirt shift over a tanned chest.
I get you anything?" I asked the sinfully handsome man.
leaned farther back and scrubbed a hand over his chin as he looked at me. "How
about your name? I'm Ford."
texture of his voice played a line of shivers down my back. "Nice to meet
you, Ford. I'm Clarity."
thick, black eyebrow raised, but his lips curved in appreciation. "Just
what I need."
heading to the bar; I'll bring you back a drink.” I fought off a rising blush.
left before he could say anything. I'd seen his empty glass and decided to take
a chance. For some reason, I wanted an excuse to pull myself together and talk
to him again.
arm caught me around the kitchen door and hauled me inside. "Who was that
you were talking to?" she asked.
petite hands swatted Jasmine away. "I'm hoping he's a new student. Right? Why
else would he be at the party?”
looks older than a student. More mature," I said.
friends both bounced up and down. "Finally, someone more inspiring than
journalism class," Lexi cheered.
stop, he's just like any other guest," I lied and turned to kitchen island
where a long tray acted as a casual bar.
screwed up my eyes and fought past the image of his dark hair and shadowed jaw.
There was no point in remembering the loose buttons down the neck of his crisp,
white shirt, nor imagining the tanned, broad chest beneath. I couldn't remember
what he was drinking, so I filled a lowball glass with Scotch. It was my
wove through the crowd back towards the dining room. Jasmine and Lexi were
wrong: I was interested in him purely in a journalistic way. He was the most
intriguing lead so far and I wanted to practice my interview skills.
over possible questions in my head, I almost ran into a fellow student. Libby
Blackwell's dyed-blonde hair fell over her brown eyes.
Clarity," she snapped.
you okay?" I asked. Libby was not a close friend, but our schedules had
overlapped here and there the past two years.
tossed her hair back. "No. My ex-boyfriend is completely ignoring me. I
mean, who ignores this dress?" she asked.
deep V-neck she flaunted was unavoidable, but obviously it was not catching the
attention she wanted. "That's too bad," I said.
smirked. "Too bad for him. I love it when men play hard to get." She
handed me her drink while she fluffed up her hair and yanked down the neckline
of her dress. "As if he's going home with any of his stuffy
are you talking about a professor?" I almost sloshed her drink over. "That's
totally against the honor code."
be so naive, Clarity. What do you think makes it so hot?" Libby asked with
an unrepentant wink.
handed her back her drink and slipped through the crowd. Libby Blackwell didn't
hide her distain for the honor code even as she wanted to win a place on the
council. That's why I didn't want to date—it distracted from the whole point of
college. I wanted to be a journalist, not a conniving ex or a strategic flirt.
strong whiff of Scotch reminded me of my errand and a flurry of excitement blew
around in my stomach. I was going to interview Ford and see what kind of story
he would make. That way I would have something prepared on the first day of
All my clever questions fled when I stepped under
the wide archway and joined him in the small nook next to the back stairs.
stood up this time, his glossy black hair almost brushing the wood-paneled
ceiling. I tipped my head up and estimated he was 6'2" with a taut,
muscular build. The charcoal sport coat clung to his wide shoulders and showed
the sinewy stretch of strong biceps underneath.
thought you might like Scotch," I said.
observation, Clarity," Ford said. He slipped his empty glass onto a shelf
and took the fresh drink. "I'm impressed."
made a note to clean up that stray glass later, then met his flint-gray eyes. "So,
Ford, what do you do?"
flared in his expression, but he cooled it with an easy smile. "You're
sharp; want to see if you can guess?" he asked.